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Campus Thefts Up, Campus Safety Gives Advice


Photo Courtesy of Brieanah Gouveia

Article Written by Brieanah Gouveia


This semester, the number of thefts on Roanoke College’s campus has increased, compared with the fall. Roanoke Campus Safety Director, Thomas Rambo, wants students to be more aware of the risks.

During spring break, Rambo sent an email to all Roanoke students to let them know about a high volume of thefts reported around campus. His message cited the means most often enabling this activity, common objects targeted and shared precautionary steps for students to take.

This semester, at least 12 incidents of theft or burglary were reported, with seven to eight happening in residence halls. These numbers are dramatically up from last semester, when only two to three incidents were reported, Rambo said.

However, for the entire calendar year of 2016, there were about 20 theft incidents filed. Comparatively, Rambo said, although there were “less incidents reported this time last year,” the increase in activity this semester is not too alarming.

Rambo classified these incidences of theft as “crimes of opportunity.” He said the stolen possessions are usually unintended items in common areas or unlocked dorm rooms, such as bags, wallets, or paper money to which people have easy access. In some cases, he said, “people have been invited in and then things go missing.”

“Most of the reports came in over a week-and-a-half period before break,” he said, so the spring break email was common protocol taken “when we [campus safety] see a pattern of behavior.”

The largest burglary was committed by a couple of juveniles, unaffiliated with Roanoke College, who stole unattended athletic equipment from Bast Gym, in addition to a car, he said.

“If you see something suspicious, say something,” Rambo said. “The juveniles were around for a while before any report was called in.” He noted that the culprits were eventually arrested for their crimes.

Since students have returned from spring break, “there have been no more claims made to campus safety,” Rambo said.

According to Rambo, theft report filing works by counting all associated thefts as one incident. For instance, if someone enters a coat room and steals 20 wallets, there are 20 individual thefts but all are recorded under one incident. If a person is caught in the act committing a theft, he/she will be arrested on-site or with a warrant.

Otherwise, if time has elapsed since the incident, Rambo said, the complainant will be asked if he/she wants to press charges. If so, the alleged thief will be arrested and an investigation conducted. The theft of expensive items can result in a felony charge, while less expensive items usually amount in misdemeanor offense, according to Rambo.

However, most of the time, people just want their things back, Rambo said. If no formal complaint with the police department is made, but the culprit is identified, it is considered a student conduct violation, with charges by the Student Conduct Board, headed by Dean Brian Chisom. Depending on the value of the item, there may be a fine, restitution for the victim or community service, Rambo added.

Rambo, who is from Philadelphia, said that he is more “anxious to work in good areas” like Salem, “because people let their guards down.”

Before spring break, he said that  many resident advisors held educational hall programs and information sessions about how to prevent or react to a theft/burglary.

“We want people to get in a good habit of locking their things and reporting suspicious behavior if anything has occurred,” Rambo said. “Partner with us – if you see something, call Campus Safety.”